Classic Alice’s Kate Hackett Talks Classics, Chemistry & Crowdfunding

Good television isn’t just found on TV anymore – more and more innovative, compelling shows are appearing on digital platforms like Netflix, Yahoo!, and YouTube. I’ll admit that most of my viewing time still goes to traditional TV shows, but I’ve begun to explore the world of web series, and the best one I’ve found is Classic Alice. It’s the story of perfectionist college student Alice Rackham who, after receiving a bad grade because she isn’t emotionally connecting to the material, decides to make life decisions according to classic novels — and this experiment leads to all sorts of unexpected real-life consequences for Alice and the people in her life. Her film student friend Andrew makes a vlog-style documentary about her project, and his footage becomes the show, which is free to watch on YouTube. The show recently finished a run of 24 episodes, and is currently raising money to make more.

Yesterday Classic Alice creator / writer and star Kate Hackett took some time out of her very busy schedule to chat with us about the show, the future, and why TV fans should give the web series a try …

Classic Alice has covered seven books so far. Do you have a favorite, either just as a text in itself or in the way your version turned out? If someone wanted to get a taste of the show, which arc would you recommend?

I think Macbeth has wormed its way into my heart as my favorite arc. It was really carefully plotted, amazingly acted, and everything just led to a perfect storm for our big climax of this 24-episode run. It was pretty seamless in its integration of both transmedia [the characters’ in-world social media accounts, including Twitter and Tumblr] and the show itself and I wound up really loving it. I didn’t, at first, when I wrote it because it was kind of a veer for her to not play Macbeth (I did want her to! but I thought that might … not … work; my instinct is to play ugly, horrible characters, but that’s not quite right for this show). Risk paid off in having her be Macduff though, I think!

Obviously Alice reading classics is helpful in a practical sense because they’re in the public domain, but do you personally feel strongly about advocating for classic literature?

Oh, of course. I think they’re tucked away in classrooms and libraries and don’t really see pop culture embracing them loudly and proudly … But so many of our stories come from classic literature (which is, in turn, from an even older story! and so on and so on), I think it’s important to know how themes change over time and what always remains a constant.

Is there a book you’d love to inflict on Alice if neither copyright nor production costs were a concern?

The Thursday Next series [by Jasper Fforde] would be pretty great, but I feel like she would just love it and there would be no conflict at all. I’d love to give her something really gritty, take her down some dark paths. Any ideas? (Open question, srsly, tweet at me @HackettKate and we’ll chat!)

This isn’t a new issue, of course, but there’s been a spike in media coverage recently about how Hollywood is a pretty awful place for women in a lot of ways. Your team is almost all female … any thoughts on this?

Yes we are all ladies in the production team! And it’s kinda cool. I think that Hollywood doesn’t believe in women as much as it should; it is hesitant to give us movies, it pauses when we play “ugly” roles, it doesn’t know quite what to do with us. I think it’s great that we’re speaking about it, because that’s how change starts, but I’m also confident that we’re on the right path. Change will come and we will see more women behind the camera and more interesting roles written for us; meanwhile, we have to keep writing / producing / speaking.

As we mentioned above, you’re both the creator / writer of the show and its star. How did that affect the casting process? Do you think casting people to play against your own character was easier or harder than a third party starting from scratch and finding people with believable chemistry to play roommates, love interests, etc.?

I think in the next chunk of books, we’re going to have a slew of new characters and I’m sure we’ll do a more ‘traditional’ casting process. I did audition everyone except Elise [who plays Alice’s roommate], but they were more referral based. Chemistry’s a really weird thing — it’s kind of magical when you find it and so, so special and important. It’s why actors like working together over and over again! But it boils down to luck sometimes.

Ewan and Reagan were real auditions, though we only had people send in tapes because UGH CASTING DAYS. I wound up falling in love with two people I already knew, serendipitously.

How’s the crowdfunder going? $60,000 is a lot of money, but when you think about how much traditional TV shows cost … $60,000 is nothing.

Yeah, 60k is like — laughably nothing for a real TV show, but it is obviously a huge amount of money for most non-studio executive people.

All in all, I think this crowdfunder is so much smoother than our last one. We knew what we were doing and knew our limitations, which meant that we could focus less on dealing with perk stuff and more on making the campaign interactive and, hopefully, fun. Everyone on the team recognizes that after a while, it’s hard to keep people excited about the Indiegogo and that people get a little sick of hearing about it. We hope that some of the ‘extras’ we’re pushing out help that!

So assuming you get funded … can you give us any hints about what’s next for Alice and friends? Because — SPOILER ALERT! — this season ended with both exciting career opportunities and a new relationship for Alice, and you’ve said it’s important to you that relationships aren’t the end of a story.

Totally! We’re definitely going into a workplace in Book 9, which should be cool.

Most of our coverage focuses on traditional TV, so we probably have some readers who haven’t ventured into the world of web series yet. What would you tell them about web series in general and Classic Alice in particular to encourage them to give it a try?

Hm. HM! I think the vlog format might be a little odd for someone transitioning from TV to web, but I’d say stick with it and see how creators carefully weave their way around that limitation. Everyone shooting this way gets really creative with what they have because we never want to “tell” our audiences what’s happened; we want to show you!

As far as Classic Alice goes, I think we push into (just a bit) a more traditional style of filming in SOME episodes. I’d like to explore that more in the future too, so we’d move from “vlog web series” to just “a show that happens to live online.”

What are some of your favorite TV shows? What would be your dream show on which to guest star?

Breaking Bad. WHY ARE YOU OVER BREAKING BAD. And Game of Thrones. I would guest star the hell outta GoT. Parks & Rec, o’course. 🙂

Thanks so much for talking to us, Kate, and best of luck with the crowdfunder and the show!

Ready to dive into the world of Classic Alice? Start here:

 

To learn more about Classic Alice, check out the FAQ, or find the show on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Indiegogo.

(Image courtesy of Kate Hackett Productions.)

About Kate

Kate Linnea Welsh is a New Hampshire-based writer and taxonomist. (No, that doesn't involve dead animals.) She keeps us up to date on TV news in her weekly column "Caffeine." She writes about other TV shows, books, and more at her blog and her site Read the Screen. She'd love to talk to you on Twitter: @katelinnea